The preppy fraternity boys with their pretty little sorority girl friends walked past me every day. They pretended not to notice me. Why should they? They think I'm just another bum on the street; I'm somehow beneath them. They don't know me. They don't want to know me.

But I know them. They're all alike. Everyone has their set of patterns. They go to the same bar on the same night each week, drink the same drink, talk the same talk. It's easy to pick out the sucker. All I have to do is wait and watch. I make a little eye contact, give them a soft word, and they give me what ever I want.

They pity me. They shouldn't. I live my life free from worry, stress, or guilt. At least, I used to live free, then I saw her.

It had been a good day for me. It was raining and there was a slight chill in the air. The few who had braved the weather saw me sitting on the railroad tie wall that served as a planter for the trees dotting the sidewalk to beautify the city streets. They felt guilty for sitting in a warm diner, eating hot food. Meanwhile, I had water saturating my coat, dripping off my hair into my eyes. As they walked out they would offer to help me. They would offer me food.

As I was taking half a sandwich from a young couple, I noticed her watching me through the window. She was so beautiful! She had to be new in town. I would have noticed her before now. I knew we were meant for each other.

Suddenly, I became very aware of my appearance. Someone as special as she needed a dignified man. I ran. I ran as fast as I could. I had to clean myself up to make a good impression on her. Quickly I washed my face. There was not much I could do about my waterlogged coat, so I shook it out as best I could and returned to the diner.

She was leaving. There was a man with her. He was dressed in jeans and boots, the urban cowboy look. He had her by the arm. His grip was so tight it looked like claws digging into her flesh. He let go long enough for her to put on a light windbreaker. He regained his grip and pulled her alongside him.

The anger that rose up inside me was like nothing I had ever felt. She deserved better than that. I would never claw into her. I would treat her as gentle as a kitten.

I followed them at a distance as they walked the two blocks to the edge of town. She occasionally looked back as if she knew I was following her. I would duck out of sight into doorways or behind the cars parked along the curb.

Two more blocks north and one block west we finally arrived at her house. It was a ranch-style home with the basement. A privacy fence on three sides and the many trees in front made it easy for me to see without being seen.

The cowboy walked as far as the front door. He leaned in to kiss her goodnight. She turned her head so he can only kiss her cheek. She knew he was not the right man for her. I'm the only one who could truly love her.

As she went inside, the cowboy walked to his car which he had left parked in front of her house. I waited until he had driven a safe distance away and crept up the driveway. The gate to the fence was opened. That meant there were no dogs to cause me worry.

I crept slowly up the stairs to the back deck. The blinds were open. I was able to see into the living room. She was sitting on the couch taking off her shoes. She looked toward the door but I was hidden by the shadows of a cloudy, moonless night.

She went to bed. I walked quietly backed down the stairs. I lay under the deck by the basement door to sleep. It was no warmer than my normal shelter, but the deck above protected me from the rain. Being that close to her I was able to sleep better than I had in years.

The next morning I awoke to the sound of her on the deck above me. I lay very still, until I heard her go back inside the house. I went to the day, and peered through the window and she'd made breakfast.

She was more beautiful in the morning light. Her hair was wet and brushed straight back. The red plaid flannel robe that stopped just above her knees was old and worn. I loved her all the more. She read the paper as she ate breakfast. When she finished, she put the plate by the sink, dressed, and left for work.

There was emptiness in my heart as I watched her leave. I went back to my spot under the deck. As I began to lie down, I noticed an open window to the basement. I tore the screen, squeezed through the window, and carefully examined the basement.

I went up the stairs. The smell a breakfast still lingered. I saw her dishes on the counter. A few bites of eggs and toast remained. I ate and thought how wonderful it would be when she and I were eating breakfast together every day.

I continued from the kitchen to the living room. I sat on the couch where she had been last night. Sitting there somehow made me feel comforted. As if I belonged.

A short hallway led to her bedroom. I've followed a strange whistling sound to a partially open door in the far corner of her bedroom. The sound was nothing more than water in the pipes of a leaky toilet. The bathroom had the clean scent of shampoo and soap.

I turned back to the bedroom. Her robe lay on the foot of the bed. I rubbed my cheek against it. It smelled of the same soap and shampoo in the bathroom with the added aroma of her perfume. It smelled soft, clean, like she was still in it.

I don't know how long I lingered in the bedroom. I roamed through the rest of the house. I looked in closets and under the beds. I poked around in boxes. I kept returning to her room. The scents, her essence, were stronger there.

Though I learned many things that first day, over the next year I learned so much more. Her name is Rhonda. She has a pattern to her life. Every morning I watch her make breakfast. Sometimes I watch her shower. Every evening I watch her as she gets ready for bed. Some nights I watch her sleep.

This gives a pattern to my life. After she leaves for work, I sneak inside through the basement window. The smells of the house are so familiar to me now. Sometimes I stop and relax in the living room or look for leftovers in the kitchen, but I always end up in her bedroom.

Her robe is always on the foot of the bed. I inhale deeply; rub my face against the warm flannel, absorbing every nuance of her. I lie with her pillow and dream of her lying beside me.

I stay this way until I hear her return from work. I run out through the basement. Sometimes I think she knows I've been there. I know she sees the slightly wrinkled bed, but she's never seemed to mind. One day soon I'll have my chance to show her how much I love her.

The cowboy, Mark, still comes to visit, though not as often. I don't like him. He upsets her.

There is someone else, too. His name is Jake. He makes her smile. Jake changes her patterns. She sleeps later when he's been here. She doesn't make breakfast. She changes. I hate change!

Tonight, I was able to show her how much I truly love her; I showed her how much she needs me. No more gifts left on the front doorstep. No more sneaking in and out when she's not home.

Mark had come to visit. As she opened the door, he burst in. From my hiding spot I could not hear what he was saying, but I could tell she was angry. She kept looking toward the back door. It was as if she knew I was watching and wanted me to rescue her.

When he left, she sat against the front door. I crept downstairs to my window and quietly crawled through to the basement floor. The moonlight that was sneaking through gave enough light that it didn't take long for my eyes to adjust. I didn't need it. I had been in here enough to walk through with my eyes closed.

Slowly, so as not to make too much noise, I went up the stairs. She was gone from the door. I heard noises from her bedroom. I hesitated. Was tonight really the best night to be here? Should I really go to her now?

Time passed. I don't know how long I stood there in my indecision. I finally gave in to my desire to comfort her.

When I reached the bedroom I peeked around the door. There she was. The moonlight was brighter in here and I could see her outline under the covers. Her hair was more blonde with the moon's reflection. My heart leapt and I paused to admire this lovely sight.

Slowly, I made my way to the foot of the bed. I watched her gentle breathing. In this moment, I knew we were meant to be together.

I could contain my passion no longer. I sprang upon her. She jumped, startled awake, a scream stuck in her throat. Yet when she saw me, a great smile appeared on her face which became a joyous laugh. She scratched behind my ears. I leaned into her hand and began to purr with happiness.

"Oh! Whiskers. You scared me, silly kitty," she said in that sweet childish voice she uses only with me. "It's okay. I love you. How is my favorite little man?"

Perfect now!!!!

©Elizabeth Britt Used With Permission All Rights Reserved By Author

Original by Jalal Ali